Remote Working is Causing Problems in Project Management

Remote Working is Causing Problems in Project Management

Today’s topic comes from an article from Construction Dive titled the 2021 State of AEC Project Management Research Report reveals remote working tops project management challenges

Communication Tools and Legal Disputes

The article analyzes the finding of a Mail Manager research with architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms in the US and UK. Based on the research results it was identified that:

  • Remote working has become a requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Companies are becoming more reliant on collaboration tools as email correspondence has increased.
  • Companies are facing more legal disputes than in the past.
  • Employees are concerned with the ability to find critical project information needed to support legal disputes.

Signs of a Deeper Problem

The results indicate there is a deeper problem with the current methods of project management. With increased communication (such as email) and use of collaboration tools, the expected results would be greater transparency and access to project information. All of which would lead to fewer legal disputes. However, the increase in communication seems to be having a detrimental effect to project transparency and information accessibility including the following reported metrics:

  • 63% of respondents reported having some form of legal dispute since the start of the pandemic.
  • 87% of respondents said they were concerned about project information not being available or visible when they needed it.
  • Evidence required is often stored in email, for example 52% of respondents said information about scope changes resided within email.
  • 46% of respondents said they ‘often’ have to find emails from old projects.

The Negative Effect of Too Much Communication

The results would indicate that in most projects no one has the responsibility to truly track the project, so even though communication is increasing, transparency is decreasing. At an individual level, people are having a difficult time distinguishing what information is important to keep and as a result, there is an information overload. When issues do arise, there is now confusion and no real documentation, which forces employees to be reliant on anecdotal evidence found only in email correspondence. The survey results reveal that the information needed is not complex or extensive, they are major items in a project that should be agreed upon by both client and vendor, including contracts (65%), historic project information (59%) and drawing approvals (54%).

Increasing communication is most likely not the solution. In fact, the results would suggest that it is only exacerbating the problem. To create transparency the AEC industry needs less communication but a way to track, document and communicate the right information.

The Root Cause: Client Centric Industry

The question is, How do you decrease communication and ensure the right information gets relayed at the right time? Logically the most capable stakeholder to be responsible for this is the one with the most expertise on the project. The expert should be able to know what information is important, how to simplify and create transparency for other stakeholders, and the one that should be accountable for managing the project. When the expert is required to regulate the information, it is called a vendor centric project management model. The issue is that most projects are ran by a client centric project management model. Meaning the client tries to regulate the information and communication flow.

How do you require and ensure the expert vendor regulates and simplifies communication and information sharing? There is only one project management model that has been documented to successfully do this, that is the Best Value Approach.

The Best Value Approach: A Vendor Centric Model

The Best Value Approach (BVA) places the vendor in the role of the expert and utilizes a system which allows vendors to track and mitigate risk throughout the project. The system minimizes communication and minimizes documentation but focuses reporting simple and critical correspondence. The vendor takes the lead in tracking the project status and ensuring all the project stakeholders are updated weekly. The documented performance of the system is as follow:

  • 2,000 projects valued at $6.6B over 30 years.
  • 65 ASU Intellectual property Licenses.
  • 384+ academic journal papers.
  • 4 Audits from third party groups.
  • 6 protests (all denied) during the procurement phase of project.
  • 0 legal issues during the execution of project.

To learn more about the Best Value Approach and how it brings accountability and utilizes proactive expert contractors, go to:

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